Week of Grossness—Day 3: Disgusting Photo Research

By Julie Caruso
Photo Researcher, Lerner Publishing Group

Julie Caruso is a photo researcher at Lerner. She had the unenviable task of researching all five of the Gross Body Science books! Here is her take on the series:

I have been researching and editing photography for almost 10 years, and honestly the Gross Body Science books were simultaneously the most yucky and the most hilarious projects of my career.

At Lerner, the Photo Research department works primarily behind the scenes. We provide editors and designers with photos to illustrate the text. We take a “photo wishlist” from the editor that describes the content and style of each photo requested and research stock photo agency and photographer websites, historical societies, libraries, government agencies, and museums to find the best photos at the best price. Then we “hand off” the photos to the editors and they make their selections and request gaps. When all the photos have been selected, we acquire the images and secure permissions.

Reaching the proper level of grossness for these books required a lot of interdepartmental teamwork. It was exciting to see the how Amelia, the designer, would put the photos together with Michael Clot and ScabSlack’s illustrations, or what ridiculous captions the editors would come up with. Some of the images (especially gangrene flesh with maggots) nearly did me in. I actually had to tape a piece of paper on my screen a few times so I could do a quick peek without having to look TOO close. Thanks to the maggots, I vote Clot & Scab the most disgusting of the bunch. But I admit (and my kids would concur) that I AM sort of a wimp.

Hawk_27Certain photos were a lot harder to find than others. For example the boar bristle toothbrush in Hawk & Drool took weeks to find. I finally convinced the curator of the National Museum of Dentistry to photograph one from their collection. It was also surprisingly hard to find photographs of kids burping and farting (those activities are invisible after all)!

Rumble_11 In a few cases we shot our own photos, the grossest of which was the mashed up food in a dish towel simulating digested food in Rumble & Spew. Our photographer Todd and I also had an interesting time photographing real live spitballs . . . fun stuff.

For more about that “most disgusting” Clot & Scab, check out this review at the SimplyScience blog.